For people that follow the business of journalism, the field of gaming journalism is rarely, if ever, talked about legitimately. Many respected news organizations tend to gaze upon the coverage of games negatively, and with good reason. The outlets most trafficked — IGN, Kotaku and Destructoid to name a few — post in a tabloid format, often commentating on insignificant details, and this has garnered gaming journalism an indisputable childish reputation. Frankly, it's difficult to look at video game journalism in its current state without laughing. Although a bunch of factors can be blamed, it is purely the irresponsibility of these gaming publications, focusing on top ten lists with no real purpose compared to pressing developers and publishers for important details.
The general consensus may disagree, but gaming is a legitimate form of entertainment, on par with films and television, as seen by the Supreme Court decision in California. And the recognition that video games are art. And the multiple tax breaks and scholarships to developers from governments. The industry has started the transition to becoming an accepted form of entertainment, but the reporting of the industry hasn't, and that reflects terribly on all those involved.
Many issues do undermine the credibility of gaming journalism, and it's on the part of these news outlets to change that. Movie reporting gets unprecedented access to the process of making a film and the people involved, and that gives journalists in the field a continuous stream of useful information. Game reporters have a much tougher task in gathering information for productive stories. Developers and publishers tend to be very secretive about their projects, disallowing journalists to do their job correctly. And while that secrecy is almost habitual, gaming outlets aren't putting enough pressure on these companies to allow free-flowing information. What gaming outlets don't realize is they have most of the power; gamers flock to these sites in droves to find breaking news on their favourite upcoming games. These outlets are such a powerful source of information, as well as being a valuable source of publicity, both things publishers desperately seek for potential sales. Therefore, for the respected sides to achieve credibility, an unwritten agreement is necessary.
Since publishers are often reticent, gaming journalism has developed into a cycle. Most of the attention is derived from reviews and previews, the objectivity and influence of the journalists writing these reviews, and the influence of companies advertising with that outlet. Unlike movie reporting outlets where the range of advertisers is vast, advertising for gaming outlets is usually selective. Generally, only gaming companies will push marketing into gaming publications. This has caused many issues when a writer is tasked with reviewing a game from one of these companies, as threats of lost advertising revenue really doesn't give the writer a true voice. Timeliness is also a major issue. Oftentimes, depending on the genre, writers don't have the time to play through a game before the release date. This is usually because developers are on a short leash from publishers to polish a game as close to the release date as possible, leaving no room for writers to fully grade all aspects for a review. The lateness puts a strain on gaming outlets because reviews generate a large portion of traffic, and getting the copy out there later could mean a loss in readership and profits. Money talks.
Let me change the narrative. In doing research for this topic, I noticed a trend which I find myself guilty of in this very blog post. As writers, and as a culture, we have adapted to the exclusive nature of the gaming industry. Read any news story and find a reference to the target audience. Notice how the audience is labeled as "gamers" and not referred to as individuals, as is the case with movie and television reporting. Commenting on the response to a certain event, gaming outlets will use the term "gamers" while other entertainment news mediums will appease to a larger crowd. I've probably done that over the many months of blogging subconsciously trying to mimic how the successful gaming blogs operate. I'll leave the mistake in as a future reference.
The reports come out routinely every Sunday on which movies won in the box office, so why can't the same report include the highest-selling games of the week? It can't be that hard to tally if figures for movie theaters can be measured overnight. You'll catch me smiling when that day finally arrives. As for the topic itself, I wish I could give some insight on how to solve these issues plaguing the industry, but my personal credibility would be questioned. I haven't had any substantial experience to really give my take, but maybe someone reading this will get inspired and take matters into his or her own hands.
Hope you enjoyed my little rant. It's bothersome and quite troubling to question the state of the industry I aspire to be apart of, but whenever I do land a job somewhere this crisis had better be resolved.
To the readers, who do you think is to blame for the despicable state of gaming journalism? Moreover, what could be possibly be done to change things?